Branching Out Blog

Beginning With the Ordinary

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jan 11, 2021 6:00:00 AM

One day I was having an ordinary conversation with my teen-aged grandson, Joshua. I was telling him that when I was a teen, I used to play a few tunes on an acoustic guitar and that my plan was that, after I retired, I might dig it out of the attic and try learning to play it again. My comments sparked his interest, and before I knew it, we were trudging up my old attic ladder entrance to resurrect my instrument.

I showed Josh a few of the things I remembered about the guitar. His birthday was approaching soon, so you can probably guess what Josh’s maternal grandparents’ gift to him wasan ordinary, but brand new, acoustic guitar!

It has been about three years since our trip to the attic, and now Joshua is a very good guitar-player. A family friend, Kevin, gave Josh a few lessons; then Josh bought a better guitar. Next, he took some lessons from a music teacher at the college he now attends. His father helped him to build a guitar storage stand. Josh occasionally comes to my house and serenades me. When his paternal grandfather was dying in a convalescent home, Josh went to see him and played his guitar and sang to him. While that grandpa was rather senile, he could still remember to ask for the “guitar man.” An ordinary conversation led to buying an ordinary guitar which led to Josh becoming an extraordinary guitarist. 

This week, liturgically speaking, we are beginning “Ordinary Time.” We may understand that to mean that we are not in a special season of Christmastime or Eastertide, or the preparation times of Advent or Lent. However the word “ordinary” could connote something without potential or just plain and uneventful. That certainly is not the case with any of our liturgies. Anytime we celebrate the Eucharist it is extraordinary! Ordinary Time liturgies are full of inspiring scripture readings.

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Topics: disciples, catholic program renew, Gospel According to Mark, Jesus Christ, prayer, renew catholic program, RENEW International, Ordinary Time

Inside and Out

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jan 7, 2021 6:00:00 AM

While I have been distancing myself from family and friends in my quest to stay healthy, my husband has gotten to know me even better than he did before the pandemic. We have not been going out to eat or visiting others’ homes for any extended socialization. He has learned to ignore my little quirks and to be patient with my imperfections. So far, so good. I am probably aiding his path toward sainthood.

No matter how well my husband knows me, he will never know me the way God does. As the new year begins, it is reassuring to me to pray with Psalm 139. I think it’s my favorite psalm of all the 150.

Each verse of the psalm delightfully stresses how thoroughly God knows me. He knows my physical activities, my thoughts, my habits, even what I am about to sayor type right now! I know many people would say it is a coincidence, but when I decided to write a blog post about Psalm 139, I sat at my kitchen table and opened up my Bible; and without any bookmark or my consulting the table of contents, I opened up to the exact page containing that psalm. Some folks might call that confirmation.

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Topics: catholic program renew, God's love, prayer, Psalm 139, renew catholic program, RENEW International, pandemic, covid-19

Keeping it Handy

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jan 5, 2021 6:00:00 AM

It is almost time for me to put away at least some of my Christmas decorations. I am a figurine collector. All year round, most of the flat surfaces of my living space display some sort of decorative accessory amid framed family photos. Christmastime is special, with a number of angel figurines, three figures of singing children figures, and two Nativity scenes. There is also a Christmas village with small figures engaged in seasonal activities. So it is a job to put all these decorations back into their storage boxes.

I noticed this morning something that should have been obvious. The traditional décor is sharing the space with additional occupants: small bottles of disinfectants and sanitizers. I had left them out so as to be handy and to remind my husband and me of the importance of trying to avoid contracting any viruses lurking beyond our domicile.

I have a bowl of peppermint candies handy near my front door; I often grab one on my way out the door just to make sure my breath is not offensive to anyone I might encounter.

I got to thinking about the idea of keeping important things handy. I possess a large number of small prayer pamphlets and holy cards I have gotten from many different sources. They are stuffed in among books on my three bookcases, but they are not really handy or obvious reminders like the sanitizers on my tabletops.

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Topics: Bible, Christmas, catholic program renew, prayer, renew catholic program, RENEW International, rosary, pandemic, covid-19, decorations, Nativity scene, handy, accessible

Comfort and Joy

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jan 1, 2021 6:00:00 AM

There is a warm, soft blanket at the foot of my bed. My cat, Buddy, loves to get on top of it and, with his front paws as if he is marching, alternate left and right while purring up a storm. That can go on for a few minutes. He closes his eyes and appears to be comforting himself and soaking up the feeling perfectly.

With the coming of the new year, I hope we all can somehow find comfort….even if we are not marching on a soft blanket. For us, it may be best to cover ourselves with a blanket of prayer. Let’s all ask our loving Lord for a blessed new beginning, as we take comfort in Lamentations 3:22-23:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

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Topics: Christmas, New Year, catholic program renew, prayer, renew catholic program, RENEW International, 2021, comfort and joy

Loving Hands

Posted by Sharon Krause on Dec 30, 2020 6:00:00 AM

When our daughter was born, I looked at each of her little hands in aweall ten tiny fingers, little pink fingernails, small perfect knuckles. Now I wonder if Mary ever took one of baby Jesus’ hands into hers and marveled at its beauty as she compared its size to hers. Did he lightly squeeze her finger? Did she kiss that tiny hand and hold it close to her face? That’s often what mothers do. 

When the boy Jesus helped Joseph with some of his work, did Joseph ever put his bigger hand on top of Jesus’ hand to guide him in how to use a tool efficiently? Did Joseph ever, even just in his mind, compare his big hand to the little boy’s? Did Joseph make note of his own callouses, the likes of which not yet appeared on his foster son’s hands? 

Once, on a silent weekend retreat, I was praying in the chapel. My hands were intertwined, and my eyes were closed. And as I prayed, it felt as if someone’s hands were folded over mine in protective love. I sensed it was Jesus there with me, although I certainly did not see any hands but mine. What a comfort it was! For a few minutes, my whole world was in his hands, reminding me of that African-American spiritual, “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” 

In his ministry, Jesus’ hands came together in private prayer, made a muddy paste to give sight to a blind man (John 9), touched and healed a leper (Luke 5), wrote in the sand as he stopped the stoning of an adulteress (John 8), and grabbed struggling Peter whose faith wavered as he tried to walk to Jesus on water (Matthew 14) —-to name just a few of his numerous loving actions. 

I sometimes wish I could have been at the Last Supper to see Jesus take the bread in his hands and pass his consecrated Body to his apostles. Priests’ hands are so blessed to be able to consecrate the unleavened bread at Masses! Even the privilege of our receiving the Body of Christ into our very own hands is so special!

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Topics: Christmas, Body of Christ, catholic program renew, Jesus Christ, Mary, prayer, renew catholic program, RENEW International, St. Joseph

The White Shiny Nativity Set

Posted by Sharon Krause on Dec 28, 2020 6:00:00 AM

Every year, when I unpack all my Christmas decorations, I display a little white ceramic Nativity set. It has a sticker on one of the six pieces that says, “Made in China.” I do not remember where or from whom I got the figures, but something about them is very appealing to me. So much for my expensive taste, eh?

 The white color reminds me of the purity of Mary, Joseph, and the Savior Infant. The three-inch, four-inch and one-inch figures reflect the light in the room and attest to the radiance of the family’s holiness. The little touches of gold paint tell me that this is also a regal family: members of God’s kingdom. Wrapped in the folds of the parents’ clothes, I can imagine, are all the ins and outs of their experience to arrive at this holy event.

 The baby’s arms are outstretched. I remember the first time I held my baby girl. She stretched out her arms as she searched to ascertain her safe surroundings. Jesus in this Nativity set is sending a message of openness to the human experience—safe or not— and a willingness to become available to all the world.

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Topics: baby Jesus, Christmas, three kings, catholic program renew, Jesus Christ, Mary and Joseph, prayer, renew catholic program, RENEW International, Natvity set

The Cs of Christmastime

Posted by Sharon Krause on Dec 24, 2020 6:00:00 AM

When I was in seventh grade at St. Joseph’s School, our class was part of the Christmas pageant, and we were chosen to sing all the stanzas of several Christmas carols. I went home from school one day and proceeded to memorize the stanzas of the most popular carols. That was a long time ago, but I still remember some of those stanzas.

Many of us welcome those familiar songs as we hear and sing them, usually beginning right after Thanksgiving. I wonder, though, as with so many things that become familiar, do we pay attention to the meaning of the words? The words of some of those second and third stanzas may be passed over; some of the melodies and rhythms may draw our attention away from the words. Don’t get me wrong. Music is fine; but these popular songs tell of the important news of Christ’s birth for a very weary world. C is for carols.

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Topics: angels, Christ child, Christmas, catholic program renew, Immaculate Conception, Jesus Christ, Mary and Joseph, prayer, renew catholic program, RENEW International, Christmas pageant, crib, Christmas carols

The Word Became Flesh

Posted by Sharon Krause on Dec 23, 2020 6:00:00 AM

Even as a child, I was drawn to what was called at Mass “the Last Gospel”the Gospel of John, chapter 1, verses 1-14, that that the celebrant recited before the final blessing and dismissal. As I wrote in an earlier post, I miss hearing that passage at Mass and wish it had not been taken out. It is not just the cadence of the reading, although I do like that; I think it’s the progression, the build up to the magnificent climaxthat the Word became flesh.

This is a wonderful gospel passage with which to pray during this season of Advent.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,
and the Word was
God. He was in the beginning with God.

I love to listen to words. They are informative, soothing, inspirational, and thought-provoking. So is the Word of God! Jesus was there, in the beginning, right from the start of creation.

All things came into being through him,
and without him not one thing came into
being.
What has come into being in him was life,
and the life was the light of all
people.
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness did not overcome it.

Life and light! Topics of discussion especially during this pandemic year! People are taking great measures to be safe from infection and protect their precious gift of life. So many families are putting up their Christmas lights earlier than usual to brighten their spirits. If we turn to Jesus in prayer, he is the best Light of all. He shows us how to look at life. He is our loving Light-giver! If we feel overwhelmed by the darkness of fear or doubt, Jesus is right there to give us hope. He is more powerful!

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Topics: Christmas, Emmanuel, catholic program renew, Gospel according to John, Jesus Christ, John the Baptist, prayer, renew catholic program, RENEW International, pandemic, God with us, The Word became flesh, In the beginning was the Word

Stress Relief

Posted by Sharon Krause on Dec 21, 2020 6:00:00 AM

For many reasons, it is easy to feel stressed right now. Stress is intensified by a lack of hope or the assumption that relief is far away. Disruption of our normal routines contributes to the already-bad situation. So what can we do? 

Turning to the Book of Wisdom can be comforting. It is an easy read, and I highly recommend Chapter 7:22b-8:1. We read of the nature of Wisdom, and I am reminded right away of the multitude of reasons I should continue to pray for a personal outpouring. 

The passage to which I refer lists numerous attributes of Wisdom’s spirit: holy, humane, free from anxiety, all-powerful, loving the good—-to name a few. If we feel stuck in our stress, we need Wisdom to get us unstuck, verse 24:

For wisdom is more mobile than any motion;
because of her pureness
she
 pervades and penetrates all things.

Since we are praying in this season of Advent in preparation for celebrating the birth of Jesus, the Light of the world, I particularly delight in verse 26 which tells us:

For she is reflection of eternal light,
a spotless mirror of the working of God,
and an image of his goodness.

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Topics: Christmas, Book of Wisdom, catholic program renew, Jesus Christ, prayer, renew catholic program, RENEW International, stress, Christmas Star, Star of Bethlehem

Identity and Essence

Posted by Sharon Krause on Dec 16, 2020 6:00:00 AM

I was sitting in the kitchen half-listening to what my husband was watching on television. All of a sudden, I heard a movie character yell, “Jesus Christ!” He was not having a religious epiphany; he was expressing disfavor at some occurrence in the movie plot. I asked, “What are you watching?” Immediately my spouse changed the channel, he frequently does anyway. It certainly got my attention, but not in a good way.  

I got thinking about the misuse of God’s and Jesus’ name in everyday language, and it is disturbing. How many times I have seen OMG on social media and have heard the expression in everyday conversation. It used to be that “Oh my God!” was the beginning of a short prayer for divine assistance or the start of an acknowledgement of some wonderful blessing from God. It has become a careless habitual expression that really does not call on the Almighty. 

God’s name and Jesus’ name deserve honor and praise. In many instances recorded in Sacred Scripture, names do not just identify people but also define their essence. There are numerous passages in the Bible in which God is referred to with titles or metaphors that point out desirable attributes. For example, we read in Psalm 18:2-3:

The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer,
m
y God, my rock in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. 

I have noticed comedians often throw some irreverent language or slang terms into their routines to be outrageous or cause listeners to pay attention. It may give certain individuals a sense of power or control if they disrespect those who are supposed to be respected. However, Romans 12:2 reminds us:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

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Topics: Emmanuel, every knee shall bend, Advent, catholic program renew, Jesus Christ, prayer, renew catholic program, RENEW International, Oh My God, The Lord is my rock, God with us, hallowed be thy name

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